MacArthur wouldn't mind staying with Leafs

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:47 AM ET

LOS ANGELES — Whenever the Maple Leafs formed a decent scoring line, it made little sense to try and give it a nickname.

Either the well would dry up, or any of the trio involved would be traded, cut or leave of his own volition.

But Clarke MacArthur was urging the media and fans to come up with something for himself, Nikolai Kulemin and Mikhail Grabovski. They don’t show signs of fading and more vital, MacArthur plans on staying beyond this season. After five years, three NHL teams and lots of uncertainty, the 25-year-old left winger thinks he’s found a home and is in pursuit of a long-term deal.

“I don’t know what’s in store for me, but I would love to stay,” the restricted free agent said Monday morning. “It’s the first year I’ve got to stay with the same couple of linemates and got back to just enjoying playing hockey. It hasn’t been up, down and all over the place. It has made coming to the rink a lot easier.”

No one can blame general manager Brian Burke for being cautious on this topic, as he has been ripped for awarding big bucks for little return with a couple of defencemen. And predecessor John Ferguson burdened the team with a couple of more. But if MacArthur is leading lead the Leafs in scoring — at least before Monday’s game here - at $1.1 million US, then surely at least doubling that is a good investment.

The Atlanta Thrashers walked away from a $2.4 million arbitrator’s decision on MacArthur last summer, unconvinced his 35 points with them and the Sabres was worth it. Perhaps so, as MacArthur was frequently moved around as players were injured or came back. But with his new pals, MacArthur needed two points against the Kings to equal the ’09-19 total in half a season.

MacArthur’s agent, Saskatchewan-based Tim Hodgson did not want to appear too eager to cut a deal.

“A longer-term deal with Toronto is something Clarke would consider,” Hodgson said via e-mail. “Even though there have been some tough stretches for the team, Clarke has enjoyed his time with the Leafs and hopes to be part of the solution moving forward.

“There have been no communications with the club. However, given Clarke’s solid contribution so far this season, I assume Mr. Burke will contact me at the appropriate time to discuss that possibility.”

Burke would only say Monday: “We have not yet begun contract talks with Clarke, and do not intend to discuss it if and when we do so. It’s also possible that MacArthur’s RFA status might make him very attractive at the Feb. 28 NHL trade deadline. Thus, further gains by MacArthur and lack of movement in the standings by the Leafs could ramp up trade speculation. The only name to be seriously be mentioned so far is winger Kris Versteeg, whom one unidentified team put an offer in on a couple of weeks ago. But Burke, who made what amounted to a 3-for-1 deal for Versteeg that included Viktor Stalberg, maintained he’s not shopping Versteeg, who has since played quite well.

Meanwhile, the top line presses on, with Grabovski within three goals of his career high of 20, a plus-5 and keeping his temper in check. Kulemin is the muscle in the mix, knocking down 250-pound defenceman Dustin Byfuglien of the Thrashers in the latest demonstration of his strength.

“Playing with those two has done great things for me,” MacArthur said.

He admitted he’s at a loss to give the line a name, given that the two Russian-speaking mates haven’t quite grasped that aspect of North American humour. MacArthur laughed at the suggestion of The Comrades. Mac n’ the USSR, MacArthur’s Sparks and Mik, Nik and Mac.

“You guys (media) have to surprise us,” MacArthur said.

The Leafs will have some roster decisions to make by the end of Tuesday’s game in San Jose. Forward Mike Brown and netminder Jean-Sebastien Giguere are to be activated for Thursday’s game in Phoenix and that means James Reimer will be returned to the Marlies’ cage. Marlie call-up Joey Crabb would be the likely scratch pending results in L.A. and San Jose, as fellow farmhand Darryl Boyce should be retained as the last healthy centre.


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